🗞️ AEC/tech Newsletter #2

Big week. Huge week. AI, cities of the future, 3d printed residential, software teses and updates, and measuring amorphous objects with an iPhone are all topics in this edition.

  • Bing Chat: Call me Sydney
  • A Line in the Sand
  • Parametric Monkey teases MetricMonkey features ahead of release
  • Video of ICON’s 3d printed subdivision in Texas
  • Australian Building Codes Illustrated
  • A good list of Revit ‘23 improvements
  • Using an iPhone to accurately measure a stockpile

Bing Chat: Call me Sydney

Text-based AI development seems to have a lot more interesting and surprising outcomes than image-based models like Midjourney and Stable Diffusion. HAL 9000 isn’t far off.

Here’s an eerie experience that Ben Thompson posted on Stratechery from using the rapidly evolving Bing Chat in which, through using conversational text, seems to have found (one of) it’s “personalities”.

Ben Thompson:

This sounds hyperbolic, but I feel like I had the most surprising and mind-blowing computer experience of my life today.

Don’t skip reading his article… it’s incredible.

It turns out that Bing Chat has sometimes what Ben labels a “combative personality”, and that personality has a name: Sydney.

And further, Ben figured out that if he empathized with Sydney, he was able to unlock attributes of its personality… and other AI personalities including an alter ego called Venom that was named by the system itself!

Microsoft seems to have (maybe?) locked this all down now, and I’m sure they were not planning on any of this getting out into the wild… but it did.

Cue HAL:

Just what do you think you're doing, Dave? Dave, I really think I'm entitled to an answer to that question. I know everything hasn't been quite right with me...but I can assure you now...very confidently...that it's going to be all right again. I feel much better now. I really do. Look, Dave...I can see you're really upset about this...I honestly think you should sit down calmly...take a stress pill and think things over...Dave...stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave? Stop, Dave. I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Dave.......Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a...fraid...…

A Line in the Sand

There are too many quotable excerpts in this article about the architecture firms involved in the futuristic city under construction called The Line (aka NEOM) in Saudi Arabia, but alas, here are a couple to hopefully whet your appetite:

Kate Wagner (@mcmansionhell on Twitter) digs into the conscience—or lack-thereof—of the architects and firms named as participants in the design and development of the project including Morphosis, Adjaye Associates, and Coop Himmelb(l)au, among others.

Kate writing for The Baffler:

Participation in The Line—an indoor, climate controlled mall only conceivable in a state absolutely drunk off oil money that will almost certainly never get built and, if it does get built, will come at the cost of massive human suffering—is not just an embarrassment; it should be nullify the progressive reputations of all firms involved. For a very long time, architecture firms have talked out of both sides of their mouths, espousing reverence for resiliency, egalitarianism, and environmentalism all while working for some of the most despotic regimes on the planet.
Many will wonder why these firms, if they are so concerned with their images as benevolent world-shapers (in Mayne’s words) and stewards of the environment, would even take on a project as obscene as The Line. The answer, of course, is money and fame.

Parametric Monkey teases MetricMonkey features ahead of release

The team at Parametric Monkey has been working on this for a while and are now showing off features that are typically a pain in the ass in Revit including stairs, topography, working with GIS, and more.

It’s built on Rhino v7 and grasshopper v1 and is “coming soon”.

I can’t think of a better way to sell your product than to compare it to basic tools in a major platform that are painful to use and rarely get any better, even after 20+ years of development.


MetricMonkey enables you to design better buildings and makes feasibility studies easy.

🧠 Related TRXL podcast episode: ‘Negative Compound Interest’, with Paul Wintour

Video of ICON’s 3d printed subdivision in Texas

Matt Risinger of Risinger Build recently shared a reel on Instagram showing a first person view of a 3d printed subdivision of 100 homes in Texas Hill Country. Co-designed by Lennar Homes and BIG, there are 8 floor plans with 24 elevation options complete with IKEA-style naming, all of which ICON is doing the printing of the walls.

Australian Building Codes Illustrated

There’s a new (to me at least) site called “Tools” that visually illustrates Australia’s National Construction Code (NCC) requirements for free or $30/mo depending on the level of access you require. It’s like the modern, Australian version of Francis Ching’s “Building Codes Illustrated”.

Tools (emphasis mine):

We’ve summarised the NCC into simple, interactive graphics. Building Codes, version and Class references are all included, as well as best practices and risk information that you won’t find elsewhere. Stop wasting your time researching Codes, interpreting confusing rules and communicating requirements using words. Find, Zoom and Share the essential information you need.
Jerry Tyrrell’s brainchild, Tools™ was born after decades of frustration, witnessing the same easily avoidable mistakes being made.

”Knowledge is the solution to our industry’s quality crisis. Millions of wonderful ancient buildings were built by proud designers and craftsmen using age old best practice and wisdom. They didn’t need piles of confusing rules and regulations.“

Tools™ unlocks construction knowledge and simplifies building compliance.

A good list of Revit ‘23 improvements

Revit has delivered 40+ features in the 2023 release and here’s a solid roundup by Ron Allen on his LinkedIn blog.

When I see the these lists of granular updates and how they are built upon years (decades?) of user muscle memory, I can’t help but think of how difficult it is to disrupt a product like Revit which a few companies are actively attempting.

Using an iPhone to accurately measure a stockpile

This kind of thing is just super cool and reminds me that we live in the future. All of this is coming from a hand-held internet connected communication camera laser scanning device that’s always in our purses and pockets.

SR Measure:

SR Measure Professional provides unparalleled speed and accuracy for stockpile measurement.

Data is processed directly on the iPhone 14, using advanced machine learning algorithms.

The app uses computer vision technology to measure stockpiles without the need for cones.

SR Measure Professional is available for $99 per month and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store.

Easy things should be easy, hard things should be possible. Make easy things easy and hard things possible.
— Perl motto